Happy New Year, Teachers!

Oh, my. The other day, I was in a spiral of self-pity. I was feeling like a failure. I was feeling like I haven’t accomplished anything with my life. I was feeling mad at myself for my complacency at work. I was annoyed with the fact that I haven’t been actively working towards the goals I have set for myself. I know I’m not alone. Everyone goes through these times. I don’t have these moments often, but when I do, I reflect on the “why”. Normally, I feel like the princess of the unicorns and rainbows and butterflies abound in my kingdom. But, the other day was one of those days. The days you think back on, and you’re wondering where the sadness/resentment/self-pity came from. After some careful reflection and some “get your sh*t together” pep-talkin’, I figured it out.

Me: “I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything with my life.”

Husband: (looking at me with utter confusion) “What do you mean?”

Me: (no response)

I had no response, at least no real response. I have accomplished a lot. I have accomplished things that other people might only dream of. I have done things I never thought I would. Traveled places I only thought dreams were made of. I have tried and failed/succeeded at things that give me butterflies, and I lived to talk about them. After reflecting on my bout of self-pity, I realized that I do this every year. Every single year since I was a little girl.

As a teacher, who has “summers off”, I am acutely aware of endings and beginnings. Each school year, I think of how another year has passed. I remember how far I’ve come. But I also remember how far away I still am. New Year’s eve is the pinnacle of rebirths for many people, but that’s not how I operate. I think many fellow educators understand where I am coming from. New Year’s Eve is just one of my new beginnings. I get three a year. And I am so thankful for it.

January 1st – New Year

Late June after school let’s out – New Year

First day of School – New Year

These new beginnings keep me mentally on track, but they can be a burden to the intrinsically driven being. These passing months remind me that six months, four months, or even just two months have passed. I’m really lucky; but like I said, I am overly aware of time passing because of my new beginnings. At these three junctures each year, I reflect on my previous year both personally and professionally. And I think about what I can do to make myself even better. I reflect on my previous goals. I think of how far or how short I’ve come to making my dreams my reality. It’s my time to either celebrate my accomplishments or bathe in self-pity for a day or two while I judge my achievements based on a 1-10 score.

Well, after watching an assembly just a few days ago, by motivational speaker Dr. Paul Wichansky who has cerebral palsy, he said something that stuck with me: “Never let your attitude become your biggest disability.” I realized that feeling unaccomplished is stupid and seriously unsubstantiated. I am blessed. So very blessed, and I know that. I have accomplished so much. I have so much to still accomplish, but guess what? That’s what life is all about. I have to remember that if I haven’t made a dream a reality yet … it’s that it just hasn’t happened “yet”. It’s just a matter of time.

I use these valleys as a springboard for getting stuff done. For making life happen. I kind of like when they creep up on me because days, weeks, and months later, I’m more productive and focused than I was before.

Set goals. Achieve them. Set new goals. Knock ‘em out of the park. Happy New Year, teacher friends. Actually, Happy Summer. Celebrate it. Make it great. Be better … always.

Love,

Kristen

JustKristenToTheCore

Why am I still teaching?

The question isn’t so much why do I teach? It’s after everything, why are you still a teacher?

I have been asked many times throughout my career: Why are you still a teacher then? This question usually comes after I give a litany of reasons that illustrate how undervalued/underpaid teachers are. More than likely, it was my response to a critique of how much “vacation time” I have off according to someone with four weeks paid vacation and a salary double mine. Sorry, I digress.

The question comes after people realize that in the eight years that I’ve been at one school, I’ve gotten a raise two of those years. The question arises when I have to explain that politicians are the worst things to happen to education in the last decade. I’ve been asked this question countless times. It used to bother me. It used to send me into a spiral of doubt, insecurity, and uncertainty. The first time I was asked that question, I was rocked to my core. Why the hell am I still teaching when there are so many negatives to this job?

The scanty salary increases, the time spent at work outside of contractual hours, the general disrespect from non-educators are just a few. But when I think deeper about this question, I seriously wonder what the heck I’m doing five days a week for a about one fifth of my life.

Oh, we’ve all gotten that email. THAT email from THAT parent that makes you question your worth in all aspects of life, including outside of teaching. The email that makes you feel so inferior upon first read that you cannot do anything else but perseverate on the text, line by line, word by word, for more than a week. For you non-educators out there, you just don’t understand. I’d have to publish one of these “nasty-grams” as we call them in the biz for you to truly understand. The parents who accuse you of not being qualified, not being worthy, not understanding children, not having a child’s best interest at heart. The goal of THAT email, if it comes to you, is to debilitate you. To leave you in the fetal position sucking your thumb as you worry if this parent will really be able to take your license away because they are just that angry and that committed to making you regret holding their child in for recess detention. Oh, it’s real, people. It’s very real. Parental lies and spewing of absolute hatred are not uncommon for even the best teacher. There are parents out there who are always ready to strike and the poker is always red hot.

It’s after a colleague or I receive this email that I seriously ask: Why do I still teach? Why am I sticking around? I’m in a profession where I am required to bite my tongue and not even fight back. I’m in a profession where literally anyone who has ever attended school is more of an “expert” than me. Why do I still teach?

Oh, we’ve been held more accountable for student failure than the parents of that child. The question is never “What is being done at home to help?”, the question is “Why isn’t my child learning in school?” The implication is that the education of a child comes solely from the teacher during school hours, and in the presence of outdated resources on a 90 degree summer day with no air conditioning. The teacher cringes at the fact that the parent takes no ownership over their child’s learning and success. The parent doesn’t understand that YouTube, while it is a form of education, is not going to teach your child word recognition, reading skills or mathematical concepts; make-up tutorials, video game hacks, and song lyrics, yes. Actual education, not really.

When I’m the only one who is being held accountable for a child’s “success” according to the archaic grading system of A or B or F, I ask myself: Why am I still teaching? This is my job, but is it what I signed on to do? To be the sole teacher of the children because their home-life is filled with video games, Instagram, and extra curricular activities that leave no time for homework or even “home fun”.

Oh, we’ve also been called to principal’s office to discuss the data obtained from last year’s state assessment and were told that the numbers are just “not good enough”. You remember how hard you worked the year before. You remember feeling helpless when your students walked out of the testing room saying they didn’t care if they did poorly or not because their parents said the test didn’t matter anyway. Vivid memories of 11pm bedtimes sprint through your mind. You wonder if the countless hours you spent redesigning your instruction to create learning experiences that mimic the state assessment in terms of rigor and format were even worth it. Your heart sinks as your administrator tells you that because of your low scores, you will have to be placed on a Corrective Action Plan that could potentially lead to loss of job if your students’ scores don’t improve the next year.

These meetings leave me questioning everything. Why do I work for a profession in which my worth, my abilities, my passion are based on the one product my students create during one snap shot of the school year? A time when I can’t talk to my students, can’t help my students, can’t even give a thumbs up to my students for working hard. A snap shot of the most unnatural, stiff, and un-fun four days of teaching each year. Let’s just say, no one smiles during testing week. For fear of losing our license and because being a test proctor who can hand out pencils and tissues is not a very stimulating job.

Oh, we’ve been privy to the state’s grade for our efforts. The numerical score that we get for the evidence of what we do “every day” which came from an assessment that took places during 5 of the 1,260 hours children are in school each year. Where the state can label us as ineffective because not enough students passed the test a corporate giant- focused on a healthy bottom line- created.

I question why I teach when a test decides if I’m good at my job or not. I ask myself why I stay in a job where my performance is directly related to the “customers” I serve who may or may not have been served some bad chicken the night before their big test.

Oh, we’ve sat on negotiation teams with the school Board of Education to negotiate a new teacher contract. We’ve poured our hearts out to the Board’s team telling them why we think we deserve that $1,000 yearly raise, only to be told that if we’re not making enough money, we should find a second job. The level of disdain these volunteer community members have for their teachers is palpable, yet they are the ones in charge of making decisions that directly affect our livelihoods.

I have, and continue to, question why I teach in a social climate where teachers are disregarded as complaining, nincompoops who “should be thankful they even have a job because they’d never make it in the ‘real world’ like all of us”.

Why am I still teaching? Why not something else?

I have two Master of Arts degrees. I am an aspiring writer. I have more hobbies that could turn careers in about the time it takes to load the Etsy webpage. I have an aptitude for numbers and figures and accounting excites me. I am bilingual, and I’m currently working towards tri-. Believe me, I know I’d make it in the “real world” if I left teaching. There are many careers I know could serve me well, and vice versa.

But, I am a teacher. I am a teacher now, and I will always be a teacher. I believe in children. I believe in education. I believe that I can have an effect on an entire generation, and I believe I already have. I am still a teacher because I’d choose working with a hopeful, imaginative, curious child than a dejected, hopeless adult- whose rose colored glasses have faded beyond repair- any day. My profession isn’t about competition or raises or bonuses or getting ahead at the expense of someone else. Teaching is a lifestyle all its own; and it’s beautiful and nurturing and compassionate and helpful and optimistic and it enlightens my soul each day. We lack the fiscal benefits; we lack the plethora of opportunities for moving up; we even lack the ability to pee when our bladder is bursting.

Yeah, on the outside teaching might not look too glamorous. Okay, even on the inside, sometimes it makes you want to cry yourself to sleep at night. But it’s the children and the ability to share the secrets of the world with an unknowing human. A tiny human whose life might just be a little better because I’m in it. When that struggling reader recognizes and decodes a multisyllabic word for the first time, you stop questioning. When that chair-thrower transfer student hugs you at the end of the year, you stop questioning. When that now high schooler comes back to visit and thank you for all you did for them, you stop questioning. When a parent sends you an email detailing that her daughter wants to only buy sundresses just like you, you stop questioning.

I am STILL teaching because I want to be a part of the change. I want to be at the starting line in the race because I truly enjoy the preparations.

In the spirit of today’s Boston Marathon, I don’t want to be standing halfway through the marathon when a runner comes to me in need of chafing tape that they realized at mile 2. I want to set my runners up for the most successful race. I want to impart my veteran runner knowledge upon them. I want them to start the race, and run off out of my sight, and I want to know that they will do well because I taught them things they never knew about the “race” and about themselves. I am still teaching because I love it. I just love it.

Whole30 Quiche Recipe

Here’s the recipe to my favorite quiche! I didn’t have the right pans for a frittata, so I made it quiche-style. No PAM or spray to keep it from sticking, either. This recipe makes two full quiches which feeds the two of us for 5 days.

1 tbsp Olive Oil

Ground turkey

  • Brown the ground turkey

 

2 cups Butternut squash (blended)

*I buy frozen, cubed butternut squash from BJs

18 eggs beaten in a large bowl

  • Add eggs, butternut squash, and browned turkey to the bowl. Add 1-2 tsp of Kosher salt. Whisk together.

1 – 2 red peppers (seeded and cut into matchsticks)

1 onion (cut into thin slices)

  • Sauté in a little olive oil until peppers are soft and onions are translucent but not brown. Add these cooked veggies into the bowl with the egg mixture. Mix together.

1 cup basil (washed and dried)

1/4 cup of pine nuts

1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt

3 cloves garlic or to taste

1 tbsp cold water

  • Puree into pesto. Taste. Add more or less ingredients as desired.

In two pie plates, evenly pour the egg mixture. DO NOT grease the pie plate. DO NOT fill to the brim. Egg mixture should be about 3/4 up the side of the plate. Once the egg mixture is in the pie plates, drop dollops of pesto around the circle making sure each cut piece of pie will have some of that delicious pesto!

Bake- uncovered- at 375 for 40-45 minutes. Top of quiche should be golden brown.

My Whole30 Experience

Whole30

So, let me start by telling you how I feel today … day 31. One word: AWESOME!!!! Now, writing about my journey is a way for me to help others think carefully about their food choices and make a change. I am not a doctor; I am not a dietician; I am not a whole30 ambassador; I am simply a girl who tried something that worked, and I want to share.

Why did I start Whole30?

1. This is embarrassing to admit, but I was waking up multiple mornings, with swollen fingers. My wedding band and my engagement ring wouldn’t fit. Some days, I would only be able to get my band on. Some days, neither. I hated it. I felt terrible knowing that I couldn’t wear my beautiful symbol of love and commitment on my finger.

2. I was starting to get angry with Italy. Okay, not really. I did, however, begrudge myself for having second lunches and second dinners while on the vacation of a lifetime. You might be thinking, “You went in August! It’s not Italy’s fault!” Well, you’re kind of right, and you’re kind of wrong. Being in Italy set my good food choice monitor into a frenzy which shot-circuited the mechanism that allowed me to say no to delicious food because you only live once. I’m not kidding. That fifth piece of focaccia bread was something I deserved. It was something I craved. It was something I couldn’t resist. In the real world, we know that “mechanism” is a combination of two little things known as self-control and leptin. : ) Well, I wasn’t showing any level of self-control; I wasn’t getting full when I should have been; I was eating more food with no brakes than I had in years; My weight would not get out of the 140 range which is the heaviest I had been since I came back from my study abroad experience at 148! And, I couldn’t get the weight off! I had always heard adults say that losing weight was harder as you get older. I had just never experienced that.

3. My pants were bursting at the seams. I’m not joking. I would put on my work pants and just know I was going to be in a state of discomfort all day. I felt my stomach hanging over my waistband. My love-handles were on display for all to see. I felt like any crazy movements at work would leave me with torn pants and a seriously bruised ego.

4. I was waking up feeling awful every day. I would go to bed around 10:00 pm. Wake up at 6:30 am and wouldn’t feel rested at all. At one point, I thought I was ill. Seriously. I thought, “How can I need this much sleep! My body never feels rested.”

5. I didn’t think I could do it. You know I don’t shy away from a challenge. So, I did it.

Saturday before …

We decided throughout the week that we were going to start on Monday. It was a holiday weekend, so we would have time to meal prep, read up on Whole30, and begin our journey. We decided to go ahead and make my favorite puff pastry recipe laden with goat and ricotta cheese encased in flaky, crispy carbs. Delicious. We also decided that a Saturday night in was cause for celebration. A celebration with enough adult beverages for a dinner party … serving just two.

Sunday before …

Well, that morning we woke up feeling awful! Headaches, angry stomachs, tired eyes, etc. In an effort to extend our weekend of gluttony, we attended an “all you can eat” brunch buffet. You might be thinking, “You were eating all that because you knew you’d be depriving yourself for the next thirty days!” My response: Um, no. This was our new normal. During the week, most nights, we would eat grilled chicken and vegetables, drink nothing but flavored water, have a small little dessert after dinner, but Friday through Sunday were no holds barred. “Game on!” was the battle cry of my taste buds as I entered the weekend. We also started slipping garlic bread into each dinner. That became a staple we always craved.

That night, we hunkered down and tried to find some great recipes to try during Whole30. We settled on a few to start.

Day 1 – 142 pounds. Yikes. What did I do these past few months? We had ordered the Whole30 book, but it didn’t arrive in time. We navigated the Whole30 website, and some other helpful paleo sites, to find some recipes of what we could make for the week. We settled on some Kitchen Sink Eggs for breakfast. It was kind of bland but very filling. I didn’t love it, but I ate it. It wasn’t my normal Vegan Chocolate Shakeology with a banana and PB2, but it would do. We left to buy in bulk at BJs right after. We spent about two hours shopping. It was exhausting. Reading labels. Checking ingredients for compliance with Whole30. Trying to locate as much organic product as we could. Finding a new Balsamic Vinegar without sulfites. Finding coconut milk that was compliant. Buying a new kind of mustard. Buying almond butter. Buying chicken stock that was compliant. UGH! It took forever, not to mention it cost hundreds of dollars. We returned home with bags of food. Just putting the food away was a daunting task, but then we had to cook? While hubby was in the kitchen, I decided to read a new book. I was just recovering from being sick for a week, so my energy was low. I steamed some edamame and snacked while I read. BIG MISTAKE: Day 1 was a wash at that point. It wasn’t until later that night that I realized anything soy was off my plate for the next 30 days.

So, using a restaurant term, we had a soft opening with the Grand Opening starting the next day.

Day 1 (again) – I was so mad that I messed up our first day! But, if Whole30 teaches you anything, it’s tough love. You mess up; you start over. No exceptions. No excuses. No complaining.

Tip 1: Do your homework! Don’t be like me. Don’t start until you really know what you should and shouldn’t be eating. You don’t want to get one week in and realize you’ve been messing up all along.

Tip 2: DO NOT cook on the same day you meal prep. Unless you have the energy of a Greek God, you are setting yourself up for a day of fatigue. We cook for hours on Sunday!

Tip 3: If you are busy like us, you need to meal prep. Whole30 would love it if you could cook each night and enjoy the fruits of your labor right away. For us, that’s not an option. If we want to fit a workout in after work, we need to meal prep. So, we cook in bulk. We make at least one major protein dish and a few sides. I also prep breakfast for the week. We have our meal calendar planned and printed each week.

Day 2 through 7- I felt great! I wasn’t even drinking coffee in the morning. Just some Earl Grey tea. I was tired after work, but I wasn’t craving junk foods. I wasn’t feeling deprived either. I didn’t work out that week. I just made sure I walked at least 30 minutes each day. Not eating my favorite foods was mentally hard, so I didn’t want to do some crazy workouts like I normally do which make me NEED tons of food after. Day 7 – 135 pounds? AMAZING!

Day 8 – Son of a b*tch. I can’t even watch tv. FOOD. FOOD. FOOD! EVERYWHERE!!! I literally would fast forward through food commercials because they made me want pizza. I was even craving foods I never eat like McDonald’s fries. Thank goodness I had my Whole 30 book. I kept me on track as I read it before bed each night with my tea.

Tip 4: TEA! I had many teas on hand at all times. When I was done with dinner, I would go right to drinking tea. It would keep me from wanting a sweet dessert. Keep a variety of herbal and decaffeinated teas on hand at all times. Even keep some at work to take the edge off when you are having a craving.

Tip 5: Stay off social media. If you’re like me, and you love a delicious milkshake, a carefully crafted Bloody Mary, a tower of a burger, or just snacks for days. My advice? STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. I’m not kidding. Seeing people’s pro-junkfood posts made me second guess my Whole30 philosophy, even if it was for just a short moment. You only live once, right? When you’re making this change to your body, change other habits, too. Think about it as a new you. I’m sure you can afford to spend less time chasing your news feed as it updates at the speed of light. Trust me.

Day 9 – 136.8 pounds? I went up? : (  I was reading It Starts with Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig (Whole30 creators). As I started reading about how awful Oreos are for me, I started dreaming about how delicious they tasted. The disgustingly processed treat was flashing through my mind. I wanted them so badly. I’m not going to lie. I still think about them now. 32 days later … that’s just something I’m going to have to deal with. I know they are terrible for my body and my psyche. I just need to always be prepared to resist them. I am really saying that unless they are part of some incredible vacation treat, I won’t be eating them. S’mores on the other hand … when is the first campfire? I’m being real about this eating plan. I know I wouldn’t be able to resist a S’more with my nephews at our first cookout of the season. However, as long as I know I am not going to be sporadically sneaking Oreos from the pantry as a pre-dinner treat, I’ll be okay.

Day 10 through 22 – I felt great! I was falling asleep in two to three minutes before bed. I was sleeping through the night. I was feeling rested when I awoke each day. I got back into working our 4-6 times a week. Each night I would peel a numbered Post-it off my mirror, I would think of beer and wine. That was really the only craving I was craving. I missed our Friday night relaxing drinks and a movie. 135.4 lbs. almost every day. I have never had a consistent weight day to day. NEVER! When I was eating whatever I wanted, I would fluctuate 3-6 pounds each day. On Whole30, my weight was so consistent. I fell in love with that more than the actual number on the scale.

Tip 6: Display your dates so you “see” your plan  multiple times a day. I put my Post-its on my bedroom mirror. I would see them countdown at the start and end of each day. I never used to be this person. I wouldn’t display my progress. I wouldn’t keep track of my work. I didn’t want to be too invested for fear that I would fall off the wagon. I’m coming around on that, and it helped me succeed.

Day 23 through 26 – I am a freaking champion. Working out, fueling my body with proper nutrition. Sleeping regularly. Working out like an animal. I can do this.

Day 27 – I’m at a wedding. There’s alcohol everywhere. Passed appetizers that remind me of my old self. Every time I refused an appetizer, I thought about how my old self would have responded, “Yes, please!” to every server’s question. I thought about how much food I would be eating simply because it was there and it tasted good. I thought about the few options of drinks there were for me. Unsweetened iced tea! What a savior! Until this moment, I had never thought about people who don’t drink at social events. There just aren’t many satisfying options. Water? So blah! Soda? Um, sugar! Iced tea called out to me. Thank goodness!

Day 28 – Family birthday celebration at an Italian restaurant? Focaccia bread. It looked so good. Wine as a celebratory beverage? Just a sip? Uh! This was difficult. I’m almost done with Whole30. Should I … No! I sat and watched my family devour that sauced up, cheesy, bread. And I DID NOT partake. Don’t shy away from going to restaurants while on Whole30. Take your new habits for a test-drive. It’s important because restaurants are a real part of life!

Tip 7:  Don’t go to a restaurant really hungry. Sometimes, dinner plans with other people throws our meal times off plan. Don’t let that happen. If you go hungry, you are bound to eat off plan. Eat some cashews before you go into the restaurant, that way, waiting for food won’t be hard! Also, check that there are options for you to eat before you go!

Day 29 and 30 – Booyah! I did it. I feel incredible. What am I going to introduce first?

Day 31 – I’m nervous. I don’t want to go off plan. I’ll have a few sips of wine as a celebration. The few siips take delicious. Chianti. Yum. What? Now I can’t sleep? This hasn’t happened to me in a month. I just can’t go to sleep. Finally, sleep. Uh, now I can’t stay asleep. : (

Tip 8: Start on a Monday. That way, when you finish the program, it will most likely be a Wednesday. You DO NOT want to finish on a Friday or Saturday. You will be too inclined to fall off the wagon right away. But you might want to celebrate your achievement, so make Friday night your celebration day! Day 32 or 33 : )

Day 32 – What are we meal-prepping this week? I need to eat some protein. Hmm… Friday night beer? Sure! Half a beer in … it’s okay, but I need water. Uh, I’ve been laying here for 20 minutes, and I still can’t sleep! What is happening?

Day 33 – I hate alcohol. I miss sleeping soundly. Kitchen sink eggs for breakfast it is!

Tip 9: Fully invest in yourself in this process. It’s hard, but it’s doable. Take before and after pictures. Track your feelings and progress. Don’t weigh yourself like I did. It makes you question things you shouldn’t be questioning. Regardless of if you lose weight or not, life will be better for you. You WILL look and feel better. 

Tip 10: Be open to more changes than just your food. Now is the time to really look at your unhealthy habits, not just pertaining to your body either (social media, spending tons of money on restaurant cuisine, etc.)

Tip 11: Whole30 is a team effort, treat it as such. I wouldn’t have been able to complete this program without my hubs. If he was eating chicken wings and beer each night, I would have caved after seven minutes. If you don’t have an SO, find a friend. Meal prep with each other. Share prepped meals. Hold each other accountable!

19 Things that Officially Make You a Teacher

Don’t Laugh

You have mastered the art of maintaining a straight face when a student passes gas in the middle of your lesson. Think of something terrible. Don’t laugh. Get the kids back on task. Ignore what just happened and pretend you didn’t hear it, too.

Take Your Time

You know 40 minutes is an acceptable amount of time when drafting a parent email. A carefully crafted parent email is a work of art and requires the skills of a literary genius. Your emails are worked up and reworked until every last punctuation mark is used correctly to convey your message. This is not a quick process even though it may only be five sentences. Teachers, your commitment to word choice, syntax, and connotation should earn you a medal.

Mission Impossible Eyes

You have trained your instincts to be able to see ten raised hands and, without even asking, you know who has to go to the bathroom, who needs a tissue, who dropped their pencil, whose dog ran away, whose aunt is visiting from out of town, and who has the actual answer to the question you asked. With methodical precision, you weed out the “I just wanted to tell you” students. Sometimes, your Spidey-sense alerts you to call on no one; it’s just too risky. You make all the students put their hands down and call on a someone who didn’t even have their hand up. Mission accomplished.

Security Blankets are Okay

You have learned how to turn a security blanket into an acceptable fixture in your adult life; however, it’s disguised as a teacher tote bag. In your bag, you have everything you could ever need to survive. Snacks, office supplies, your favorite book, and possibly some student papers that need grading. This bag travels everywhere with you, even if you never actually take anything out of it, it goes to work with you and comes home with you. You don’t feel whole unless you have it with you.

Paper

Fluorescent paper is your lifeblood. Not just paper, though, really any paper or office supply makes you smile from ear to ear. Next time there’s a sale on Dixon Ticonderoga #2’s at your local teaching store, I want you to take a picture of your smiling face. Then, compare that picture to your smile on your wedding day. Samesies- I guarantee it.

Spilled Milk

You have lost a latte to a student passing by. Either they swung an arm, scared the be-jeezus out of you, or they were behind your desk when they shouldn’t have been, a student has caused your latte to spill all over the floor. Being the consummate professional you are, you don’t cry until after the students leave the room. It, of course, happened on a day when you just really needed caffeine.

Attire

You keep old clothing like cut off tees, scrunchies, old jerseys, suspenders, overalls, and so much more just for school spirit/theme days. You dress in the most ridiculous garb, and you don’t even wince at yourself in the mirror. It’s just a totally rational thing to do because Dr. Seuss Day is a day for Whoville hair, obviously.

Social Media Stalked

You have been stalked and found. Being the super-sluths your students are, they find your account. They try to befriend you. Not once, but twice. You know they tell all their friends they found you because you get ten more requests one minute after the first one. You crush their hopes and dreams by blocking them immediately. You pretend that profile wasn’t even yours because you “don’t have social media”. That has become your battle cry since the first day you started teaching.

Email Junkie

With the highest level of morbid curiosity, you have checked your email over the weekend after report cards are sent home. You just know you’ll have an email from “that” parent. You just can’t look away. You need to see if “that” parent actually emailed you. You have cried yourself to sleep over a happy email. You have cried yourself to sleep over a nasty-gram from a parent. You keep reading and rereading that email. They can treat you like garbage, but you have to be restrained and professional. You cannot engage in the adult-to-adult conversation you wish you could. You wouldn’t do it if you had the chance anyway, but you can dream. Can’t you?

Name Change

You know that the phrase “That’s my name. Don’t wear it out.” is not just a phrase. It’s a real plea created by teachers after being in a classroom for fifteen minutes. You have seriously contemplated changing your name each year because last year’s name was officially worn out.

Staff Meetings

You have learned survival techniques to get through each meeting. Bring chocolate, take verbatim notes so you don’t get distracted, and sit across from your work bestie so your eye rolls don’t have to travel a far distance. You secretly like meetings because, well, gossip flies at these things.

Just Ask Me

You have learned how to run a school by watching how to NOT run a school. You wish that your administration would just ask you how to do everything. You’ve been around long enough to know what works and what doesn’t. You go around and tell everyone how qualified you are to do the job of administration. This leads me to our next one.

The Principal’s Office

When you get called to the principal’s office, you cringe. She definitely heard me bad-mouthing her new math initiative; I’m getting fired. Your heart races as you walk into her office and close the door. She then thanks you for your help with the safety committee. You realize you’re a jerk and don’t want to run the school anymore because you gastrointestinal tract just can’t handle the stress. This brings me to my next one.

Alcohol

Enough said.

What’s in a Name?

You have learned all the names that make your body quiver with a mixture of anxiety, fear, and alertness. Literally, just an utterance of one of “those names” can render you in a panic in which you instinctively hide your scissors, lock the windows, and tie your hair back.

School is Cool

You just love going to school. You just love it. Learning. Sharp pencils. Blank paper. New crayons. Books. Books. And more books. School is life.

School Photos

School photos are your nemesis. You’ve had over two decades of opportunities to practice for this yearly closeup, but you have yet to perfect it. Don’t worry, you’ll have about 25 more chances throughout your career.

Anything Handmade

Handwritten letters make your heart sing. Literally, on the worst day of your life, a child writes you a letter or draws you a picture and you feel instantly better. They draw a picture of you with them. You have gnarly teeth, a huge head, a plump mid-section, while they look like a princess, and you love it. It makes your heartbreak a little less. It helps you stop, breathe, and think about the beauty of life.

Kids.

You learn from children. Children remind you that life isn’t so bad. Life is full of hope. Life is full of amazing things. Life is worth slowing down for. Life is worth smiling for.

You know you are teacher when, teaching is your lifestyle and not just a job.

Cinderella Girls

Teacher: “What do you think of when you think of the word ‘primary’?

img_5141-jpgStudent: I think of the word primer.

Teacher: Okay, and what is primer? What is primer used for?

Student: Well, you use it before you put your makeup on, so you’re makeup doesn’t come off.

Teacher: Yes, primer goes on first. It’s first in the sequence. I was thinking paint primer when you first said it!

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Obviously, the teacher and this student are born in different times. That is an obvious statement, but I need us to recognize that I am not just referring to literal years; I am talking about the different eras. She was born in era of social media, PhotoShopped photos, makeup artist tutorials that go viral and create fame, and girls- younger and younger- wearing makeup. Not just wearing makeup, but young girls feeling the NEED to wear makeup. Feeling the pressure of the outside world to look a certain way. Trying to keep up with the Joneses because the Joneses are constantly popping up on their newsfeed.

I did not grow up in that world. Makeup was something I played around with as a kid. I remember that Barbie Caboodle one Christmas. Lipgloss, blush, and eyeshadow. I felt like I was a princess. I had older sisters, so- of course- I always wanted to look a little older. Like them. They wore makeup, so I wanted to wear makeup, too. To me, wearing makeup was more of a rite of passage. It was not something I did so I could like the way I looked. I liked the way I looked; I just wanted to look and feel “older”.

I worry about today’s girls. Are they wearing makeup so they can look just like that photoshopped model? Are they wearing makeup because they do not feel pretty? I just did not grow up in that time. I wore makeup because I wanted to. Not for a second did I question my own beauty. I am sure a large part of that has to do with how I was raised.

I am a mix of a girly-girl and a tom-boy. I always have been. I was raised with all the frills and bows of being super girly, but I also laced up my workboots when I accompanied my contractor father to his job-sites. When this little fourth grader talked about makeup primer, I was shocked. I have never been that interested in makeup. The only reason I really know about makeup primer is because I wore it on my wedding day. I had heard of it before, but it would never be the first thing that popped into my head when someone asks what you think of when you hear the word “primer”.

This fourth grader’s response scared me. Why does she know so much about makeup? Why is she wearing mascara right now? She has highlights in her hair? I have never dyed my hair in all my life. To an extent, to each his own, but when do we stop pushing our girls to cover up their faces? When do we stop glamorizing “playing dress up” and allow it to become an every day occurrence?

Cinderella spent her days covered in dust and dirt. The only makeup she wore was the shoe polish she accidentally rubbed across her forehead at the end of a hard day. She was beautiful without the makeup. Of course, for the ball, she put on makeup and wore that beautiful dress to accent the features she already loved about herself. She was playing dress up for just one night. But, if we allow our girls to play dress up every day, how will they feel any different when they get ready for the ball? Even with globs of mascara and eye liner, they still may feel like they are not good enough. Their new baseline of happiness is a face full of makeup. So, they reach for the lash extensions. They darken their eyebrows. When that is not enough, they ask to get some lip injections.

My question is: when do we encourage girls to walk out of the house with only their God-given face and not the airbrushed creation? Yes. Creation. It is not real. It is not natural. It is fabricated according to a design deemed as the norm. When do we start being role models for the little girls in our lives and let them know that makeup is fun, but it does not define them? Should we force these little ladies to fall in love with their natural faces before we allow them to cover it with layers of a fallacy, an unattainable measure? We cannot ALWAYS be “camera-ready”. It takes too much time. It is exhausting. It really is not necessary. It makes us forget that we are enough.

After 31+ years of life, I am trying to get used to my face again- my makeup free, raw, unadorned face. This seems ridiculous that after all this time I have to learn about something that I see every day. I have to relearn to appreciate my God-given traits without any alterations that I can buy in the store.

Today, I looked especially tired. I looked at my face in the mirror and the following thoughts went through my head: I wish my eyes didn’t look so tired. I wish I had less bags under my eyes. I wish my lips were naturally pinker. I had to stare my self down in the mirror to stop these self-deprecating thoughts. I would not let my reflection leave without giving her a wonderful compliment. I looked deeply at my face. What DO I like? It took some time, more time than I would like to admit. I settled on my lashes. I like my long, dark lashes.

This is day 6 of wearing no makeup, and I love it. I want my makeupless face to become the norm that people are used to seeing. The norm that I am used to seeing. I want to love my face in its rawest form.

When it is time for ball, I will not need the makeup to feel prettier. I will already know I am beautiful. I will not have to relearn to love my face. I will play dress up because- after all- I am a girly girl, but once the ball has ended, I will wash the makeup off and be perfectly happy with the face staring back at me. I am a Cinderella Girl.

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Harvest Soup

4 tbsp olive oil (enough to cover 3/4 of the bottom of the pot)

1 yellow onion (diced)

1 red bell pepper (diced)

2-3 tsp brown sugar

4 dashes of nutmeg (or to taste)

3-4 cloves garlic

1/4 tsp ground pepper (or to taste)

2 tsp Morton salt (or to taste)

3 tbsp butter

3-4 medium sweet potatoes (peeled and cubed)

3-4 cups pre-cubed butternut squash

32 oz Chicken stock (low-sodium stock)
24 oz cold water (approx.)

Heavy Cream (if desired)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with greased tin foil. Lay cubed butternut squash and sweet potatoes on sheet. Pour on about 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 1/2 tbsp Morton salt, and 1-2 tbsp brown sugar. Toss with your hands to coat. Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until vegetables are fork tender.

2.  Begin dicing other vegetables.

3.  While the oven vegetables have been roasting for about 25 minutes, put olive oil, yellow onion, red bell pepper, brown sugar, nutmeg, garlic, ground pepper, salt, and butter in the pot. Simmer until all vegetables are tender and onions are almost translucent. Continue to stir every minute or so for about 5-7 minutes.

3.  Once onions are translucent, add roasted vegetables and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes should be fork tender.

4.  Remove from heat. Use an emulsifier to blend all the ingredients into a puree while the soup. If desired, add cream after you emulsify.

** If the soup it too thick, stir in more stock or water and return to heat. Stir. 

** If the soup is too thin, add another diced potato or cup of squash and bring the whole soup back to boil and then simmer until potato is fork tender. Emulsify again.

6 Things Parents Say about Their Kids that Makes Me Cringe

Throughout my eight years as an educator, I have conferenced with hundreds of parents. I have sat across from them while they cry, while they worry, while they brag about their child, while they predict their child’s future, and while they set their child up for a life of a fixed mindset.

As an educator and a true believer of mindset being the true indicator of future success. There are two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset individual believes that abilities and aptitudes are inborn and cannot be changed. A growth mindset thinker knows that brain plasticity allows you develop and strengthen current abilities with hardwork and some serious dedication. While people do have natural abilities like singing- for example- it does not mean that people without these natural aptitudes can never improve in that area. The belief that “you can” do something is the first step in being able to it.

6 Things Parents Say about Their Kids that Makes Me Cringe Continue reading “6 Things Parents Say about Their Kids that Makes Me Cringe”

Flexible Seating

I’ve started my journey as a flexible seating classroom. Yes, it’s a journey. I do love hyperbole, but that’s not what’s happening here. Flexible seating is a mixture of bumps, smooth trails, and hills while embarking on the arduous journey to what I think of as the Emerald City. I view true flexible seating to be a classroom Utopia. That’s why I made the change. When I started teaching eight years ago, I always wanted my classroom to resemble my home. I’m comfortable there; I love to spend time there; I get so much done when I’m there.

Flexible seating. I love it; I’m scared of it; it makes me smile; it gives me the nervous butterflies. This mixture of emotions might seem extreme to you non-teachers out there, but it’s not. For those teachers who haven’t taken the “flexible seating” plunge, you probably know what I mean.

You might be asking, “What is so scary about flexible seating?” Well, like with any educational initiative, it takes time, energy, and a whole lot of procedure/routines to handle. Most of all, it’s a risk. Now, to you, it might not seem as high stakes as investing in that stock, but it is for me. I have a lot to lose. Norms. Procedures. Routines. Expectations. Order and organization. Sanity. Just to name a few. Continue reading “Flexible Seating”